MELBOURNE (AFP) – World number one Novak Djokovic won a fifth Australian Open title and his eighth Grand Slam Sunday, grinding down Andy Murray in four gruelling sets to heap more misery on the luckless Scot.
The Serb won 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-0 in 3hr 39min to stretch his formidable record on the Melbourne hardcourts to winning five from five finals in eight years.
Only Australian Roy Emerson, who presented him with the trophy, has won more Australian Opens with six in the 1960s.
“I am so privileged and honoured and grateful to be standing here as a champion for the fifth time and to be in the elite group of players with Sir Roy Emerson and Rod Laver and all the legends of our sport,” he said.
“It’s an honour playing in front of you, thank you very much.”
Djokovic has now beaten Murray in three of his four Australian final losses following earlier wins in 2011 and 2013, although the Scot mastered him in his two major triumphs at the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon.
The victory means Djokovic stays at world number one on the next ATP rankings when they are released on Monday, with Murray moving to four from his current sixth.
“I had opportunities in the first three sets. Then the fourth set, he was just ripping everything,” said Murray, dejection etched on his face.
“The returns he was hitting on the baseline. Once he got up a break, he just loosened up and was just going for his shots. I couldn’t recover.”
Murray put Djokovic under immediate pressure with three break points in the third game of the opening set, played in cool and windy conditions on Rod Laver Arena.
But the Serb fought back to hold after an almighty 27-stroke rally and an ace.
Djokovic struck in the next game, breaking Murray to take an early 3-1 lead.
It was hard-fought tennis and the Scot worked his way back by breaking his rival on his third break point in the seventh game.
Djokovic jammed the thumb of his serving hand when he slipped chasing a low volley and needed treatment at the next changeover.
It seemed to bother him briefly only and he broke the Scot a second time before being broken back as he served for the opening set, taking it to a tiebreaker.
The top seed trailed 2-4 in the tiebreaker but then rattled off five of the next six points to claim the opening set in 72 minutes.
Undeterred, Murray broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set before Djokovic hit back with a double break.
The final was then interrupted by a security scare for five minutes when political activists unfurled a banner in support of refugees.
One of them jumped on court with security guards ringing both players as at least four protestors were escorted out of the stadium.
The stoppage worked in Murray’s favour as he broke Djokovic’s service to level the set at 4-4. It went to a second tiebreak in which Murray prevailed 7-4 to level the contest.
Djokovic admitted the protest distracted him.
“The interruption on the court happened and I lost my concentration and Andy started coming into the match and two and half hours and two sets it took a toll of our bodies,” he said.
“I didn’t want to show him that I was going through some tough physical moments.”
Djokovic suffered an immediate let-down in the third set, dropping his opening service, but he stormed back with a double break to edge in front two sets to one as Murray flagged.
Fired-up, the top seed then split the final set wide open, racing through the fourth set against a spent Murray with a triple break to surge to victory.